Hello everybody! Today, I’m here to finally review some books I’ve been sent by publishers, both for review purposes and as part of giveaways. Onto the post!
Once Upon a Fever by Angharad Walker (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is the story of two very different sisters, Payton and Ani Darke, who live in an alternate version of our world where emotions have become dangerous after the Turn, and now pose a very physical danger to people. The girls’ mum is in a death-like sleep due to water fever, and it is the dearest wish of both the girls and their methic father to find a cure for the disease that no one has yet been able to recover from. Then Ani makes a discovery of a patient who has been hidden away and a sinister methic comes to the hospital they live in, and everything changes… We spend a pretty equal amount of time with both sisters, who are on diverging paths for the majority of the book, with Ani turning to the old ways from before the Turn and nature to find a cure, and Payton devoting herself to learning how to become a methic. I must admit I had a slight preference for Ani, just because I loved the people she meets and particularly one incredible friendship she forms that made me cry, but I also found Payton’s storyline incredibly interesting and I could definitely understand why she makes all the decisions she does. The worldbuiidling is so intricate and fascinating, and although the author’s note makes clear she wrote the book before the pandemic, it was still interesting to spot some parallels between our world and this one. I think the Ash House was a great debut with such an original concept and compelling characters, and this is even better, so I can’t wait to see which dark, delectable delight we get next from Angharad Walker!
The Elemental Detectives by Patrice Lawrence (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is the first full-length middle grade from Patrice Lawrence, though she has written some short stories in this age category I’ve enjoyed, so I was very excited to be offered a proof copy and then to read it with my bookstagram friend Izzy (@feelingratherbookish). It follows Marisee and Robert who live in an alternate version of London where Elemental spirits linger, and a mysterious villain named the Shepherdess who is seemingly forcing most of the population into an eternal slumber. The fantasy worldbuilding of this is wonderful; I love elemental magic and meeting the versions of that in this book as they’re all very distinctive, and I hope we learn more about the groups we didn’t see so much of in this installment which was largely focused on the water element Chads. I also enjoyed the exploration of the real world history of the time period through Robert’s experience as a slave, both on a plantation and as part of a London household; while I liked Marisee very much, I think Robert was particularly brilliantly written and I loved how transformative his journey in this book is. The climax of this was super enthralling too, and I’m most definitely going to be continuing in the series.
Tag You’re Dead by Kathryn Foxfield (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I’ve wanted to read Kathryn Foxfield for AGES and just haven’t got round to it, so when I was offered a copy of this one, I just had to say yes. It follows three teenagers who enter a citywide game set up by a popular influencer, all for very different reasons: Grayson, to seek revenge for the death of his ex girlfriend Rose; Charlotte, in a bid to get closer to her idol Anton Frazer; and Erin, who wants to win the money up for grabs so she can escape her controlling mother. They’re all such complex, morally questionable people, as are our secondary characters, and it was so hard to choose a suspect because it felt like every one of them was capable of murder. I love books where there’s some kind of contest or game so this was no exception, and while the original idea of people either running from or chasing their competitors was exciting, the way things turn when someone hijacks it and totally changes the rules makes it absolutely THRILLING. I genuinely couldn’t put it down, and I can’t wait to pick up more Kathryn Foxfield someday soon (I’m thinking It’s Behind You would be PERFECT for Halloween…).
Mia and the Lightcasters by Janelle McCurdy (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I read this with Asha from Cat, Book, Tea as we’re both on the blog tour for it in the next couple of weeks, and I was pretty sure I would enjoy it as I love this kind of middle grade fantasy; it very much has vibes of things like Nevermoor, Amari and the Night Brothers and Skandar and the Unicorn Thief. It follows a girl named Mia, who lives in a world where certain people bond with starlight creatures called Umbra, and protect the city from danger, specifically that posed by the terrifying Reaper King. She has just started her training, so it comes as a huge shock when her city is attacked, and she has to go on the run with her mentor Jada, her friend TJ and her little brother, as well as Jada’s umbra and later, the creatures she bonds with, because something about her is different and special and she needs to get to safety as soon as possible. Mia is a wonderful main character and she doesn’t see how special she is, so I loved watching her grow in both confidence and ability, but also learn that she has always been special. My favourite trait is probably that she is fiercely protective of her family and friends from the beginning. Lux and Nox are simultaneously hilarious and fearsome, as well as fascinating, TJ made me laugh a lot and the Mia/Lucas bond was unbelievably adorable. And no shade to Jada, because she is SUPER cool and I’m so glad she was part of the book. My other favourite character was Miles, because I feel like he’s just so interesting and I can’t wait to see his character arc as the series goes on. The worldbuilding is absolutely fascinating and unique, the action is non stop, and after the ending, I’m dying for book two already.
Alex Neptune: Dragon Thief by David Owen (recieved a copy in a giveaway run by the publisher)
To my shame, I’ve never read any of David Owen’s YA books, despite always wanting to, but I instantly loved the sound of his first ever foray into middle grade and I was so thrilled to win one in a giveaway as it just sounded like the perfect summer read. Alex Neptume is a boy who lives in a seaside town, rather inconveniently seeing as the sea has been trying to kill him since he was a small child. So when an ancient water creature summons him to break it out of a dangerous facility, he’s pretty daunted but nonetheless plans a heist, as the creature is crucial to stopping the pollution of the ocean both locally and worldwide. I was absolutely howling with laughter at some parts of this as the sense of humour is just so on point, which I was kind of expecting, to be honest, given that David is hilarious on Twitter! I also loved the characters and the different dynamics between everyone, although if you make me pick a favourite it would Alex’s older sister who is a bodybuilder trying to prove she’s just as capable as any boy. However, as well as being great fun and a supe exciting adventure story, this also has a strong message of it being incredibly important to protect our oceans and our environment, as there isn’t a replacement and we’ll be in huge danger if things don’t change. I believe not one but TWO sequels are due in 2023, and I will be greatly looking forward to giving them a read!
Olive Jones and the Memory Thief by Kate Gilby-Smith (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This was another buddy read with Izzy, and one I was super excited to get to as it’s a mystery, albeit with sci-fi elements, and I was a big fan of Kate’s debut the Astonishing Future of Alex Nobody last year. This follows Olive and her brother Frankie as their enigmatic grandmother Sylvie dies, leaving behind the knowledge that she was in fact a spy, the secret mission she’d spent years working on in order to bring down a mole in British intelligence, and also an innovative device in which she has recorded her memories to help the siblings find “Shadow”. Then things go from strange to absolutely bonkers when right as Olive starts watching the memories, they are stolen, adding a whole new layer to an already tricky investigation. First up, I loved Olive so much; she is impulsive and headstrong, but so loyal and curious and a brilliant detective to boot. Frankie was very sweet, and the cast of suspects are both colourful and all deeply suspicious in their own ways, my favourite provably being Howard Sweet. There are a couple of twists I really didn’t see coming towards the end, and I think this is such a great second book from Kate; even better than her clever, original, funny first novel. I can’t wait to see what she does next!
Autumn Moonbeam: Dance Magic by Emma Finlayson-Palmer (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
This is a bit younger than most of the things I review, but I’ve known Emma on Twitter for years and I was so excited to finally be able to read something from her. It’s the story of a girl named Autumn, who is auditioning to become part of a magical dance school, even though there are only a few spots available and she may not get in. The characters are all so sweet, from Autumn to her friends Batty and Leif, to her family and even her arch enemy Severina Bloodsworth. The incidental representation was so lovely to see, particularly given the intended young age range as it normalises that everybody is different but deserves to be treated fairly and equally. I’m looking forward to another dose of this adorable world and cute characters soon! #TeamAutumnMoonbeam forever!!
The Light Hunters by Dan Walker (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I had been meaning to read this for ages, and so when I was offered a copy when UCLAN rereleased the book with a new cover ahead of the sequel coming out soon, I just had to say yes. It’s about a boy named Lux, who is able to throw light and heal people, a forbidden skill where he lives, and what happens when a dangerous man named Deimos begins chasing him and he has to join the Light Hunters to protect himself, his beloved and sickly grandfather, and their world as a whole. I loved the camaraderie between Lux and his unit, comprised of fierce, fiesty Fera, the initially abrasive but also deeply loyal and talented Brace, and their leader Ester, who is unable to throw light herself but can do so using a Gauntlet. The worldbuilding and magic system is so well described and clever, and I can’t wait to learn more about it, or to see these very likeable characters again. As such, I’m super excited to read the sequel soon, and to share a guest post as part of the blog tour next month!
The House of Shells by Efua Traoré (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I really enjoyed Efua’s debut Children of the Quicksands last summer so I’ve been eagerly awaiting her sophomore release and it didn’t disappoint. It’s the story of Kuko, who has just moved in with her new stepfather, and who some people believe to be possessed by an Abiko, although others think this is impossible. She’s struggling to fit in at school and is being treated badly by a classmate, but then one night she visits the mysterious House of Shells and meets Enilo, who becomes her best friend until she makes a horrifying discovery about she really is. Kilo would be impossible not to sympathise with, she just wants to fit in and make friends, but obstacles keep getting in her way, and I wanted nothing more than for everything to turn out well for her in the end. As with Efua’s first book, I loved learning more about both Nigerian culture in the present day and its legends and myths, and the Abiko were fascinating to learn about. This has such a tense, ethereal vibe to it and it’s so atmospheric in terms of the speculative element, but then the contemporary side is also brilliantly written and shows that sometimes people are cruel for reasons you may not expect. Overall, I think Efua is such a talented writer and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with and releases next.
Paws by Kate Foster (recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I actually did the UK cover reveal for this, so it already has a special place in my heart for that reason, and I’m thrilled to report that I also really enjoyed the story. It follows a boy named Alex, who is autistic and lives in Australia, and he is struggling to make friends before leaving primary school, which is making him very stressed about starting secondary. So he decides that he is going to enter his cockapoo Kevin in the huge dog contest PAWS, as he thinks this will help. I’m a sucker for a cute animal-child bond as you all know, and I hugely related to the feeling of your dog being your lifeline as I couldn’t be without mine, and of course the contest also allowed for lots of dog chat and brought a smile to my face, although I must also admit to crying at the end! I think the message of the book that there are always people who care about you even when you don’t maybe realise they do, is so important and overall I just think this is such a lovely, empathy-boosting book.
Thank you so much for reading!! Have you read any of these books, or are you planning to? What have you been reading recently? I’d love to have a chat in the comments!